F.A.S.T. in box-seat to deliver election promises

By The Editorial Board 19 September 2023, 10:00AM

It is a foregone conclusion that the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party-endorsed candidates Ale Vena Ale (Faleata No. 4), Mau'u Siaosi Puepuemai (Vaa o Fonoti) and Tuu'u Anasii Leota (Siumu) will be sworn-in to return to their Legislative Assembly seats after last Friday’s three by-elections.

The three former Opposition members of parliament – who resigned their seats in November last year to become independents following a fallout with their former party the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) over their call for a leadership change – had their seats declared vacant by the House Speaker who then sought certification by the Supreme Court. However, the trio later negotiated for the proceedings to be discontinued by agreeing to return to by-elections.

The final results following last Friday’s by-elections will increase the F.A.S.T. seats in the Legislative Assembly from 32 to 35. Currently, there are 53 seats in the House which means the F.A.S.T. party has reached the crucial two-thirds majority threshold. This puts the current administration in a very powerful position in the Parliament, in terms of the ruling party’s legislative agenda. Finally, over two years after the historical defeat of the H.R.P.P. and the endorsement of the new Government by the Court of Appeal, the F.A.S.T. administration is in the box seat to fulfil some of its promises from its political party manifesto which was launched prior to the 2021 General Election.

With another two-and-a-half years to go before the 2026 General Election, it wouldn’t hurt for us to put the spotlight on key points of the ruling party’s manifesto, in order to determine if the Government has kept its election promises. The FAST in March 2021 promised to do the following as espoused in its party manifesto:

  • Improve Samoa’s Human Development which was to include a SAT$2 million fund for a five-year resilient housing programme.

  • Establish a Social Service Response Unit to enable local authorities to respond to and address issues in the communities.

  • Improve Health Services which include building a new hospital in Salelologa, providing patient meals across all Samoan hospitals and investing SAT$20 million in primary health care.

  • Investing SAT$20 million to support business innovation and growth focusing on the SME and manufacturing sectors.

  • Strengthening the Tourism Sector with SAT$20 million annual funding support and another $10 million to boost partnerships with Manu Samoa and Samoa Weightlifting.

  • The disbursement of SAT$1 million to each of Samoa’s 51 constituencies for development projects to boost community development.

  • Development programme for communities on the islands of Manono and Apolima which will see the upgrading of wharves, cultural sites, seawalls and walkways plus installation of the internet.

  • Review and repeal of legislation including the Church Ministers’ Tax, Land Titles Registration Act 2008 and Electoral Act. These also include a review of laws affected by changes in the three arms of government and new laws to restrict the Prime Ministership to only two consecutive terms of the parliament.

  • And create 20,000 new jobs by 2026 as well as review the salaries of workers, employment conditions and enforcement of laws to weed out workplace harassment. 

A number of the election promises, which were mentioned above, have been ticked and are currently underway, such as the SAT$1 million district development project grant. But various others are yet to be visited by the current administration.

With another two-plus years left in public office, before the nation returns to the polls again in our five-year political cycle, we see the following promises as among the most critical to the ruling party’s success in the upcoming general election. 

The first one should be the development programme promise for communities on the islands of Manono and Apolima. These include the upgrading of wharves, cultural sites, seawalls and walkways. The living conditions of Apolima and Manono islanders have deteriorated over the years with the lack of action getting carried over from the previous House to the current term of Parliament. The lack of action to build a new wharf for Apolima is mindboggling when the party’s manifesto is quite clear on the need for more climate-resilient infrastructure including wharves for the two islands.

We are also yet to see any major traction on legislative reforms targeting the three arms of government, in light of the last parliament’s passing of draconian laws that threatened the fabric of Samoa’s democracy. These include laws to restrict the Prime Ministership to only two consecutive terms of the parliament – if the country is to avoid a repeat of the 2021 Constitutional Crisis.

Seeing how fast two-and-a-half years have gone, the political leaders of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) administration should cut back on international travel, buckle down and start working through its manifesto to deliver on those election promises. Having that crucial two-thirds majority threshold in the Legislative Assembly puts the Government in the box seat to tick those boxes – don’t waste that opportunity.

By The Editorial Board 19 September 2023, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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